ALDROVANDI, Ulyssis (1522-1605)


De PISCIBUS LIBRI V et de cetis lib. unus... Uterverius...professor collegit. Marc. Antonius Bernia in lucem restituit ...

Bologna, Apud Nicolaum Thebaldinum, 1638 [colophon: Bononiae: Marc Antonio Bernia (typis Jo. Baptista Ferronii), 1661]. Folio (358 x 236 mm), pp. 6, 732, 28, (Wood, 1931 and Nissen, 1951), one additional leaf inserted after p. 480 and paginated ccclxxi-ii and another unpaginated leaf with woodcut illustration inserted after p. 492. Beautiful allegorical title page with marine motifs. About 400 woodcuts, many full-page, in text. Engraved head-pieces. An early eighteenth-century binding of Italian vellum, spine gilt with Greek key patterns and orange label bearing the title “Aldrovandi De Piscibus”. All edges red.

An exceptional thick paper copy without age browning and two additional plates, which are not recorded in the bibliographies.

Aldrovandi (1522-1605), professor in natural history at the University of Bologna, spent his life and fortune in assembling the materials for his great natural history work, in thirteen volumes. The volume on fishes and whales was both a revival of fanciful zoology with sea monsters inspired by the work of the Swiss scientist Conrad Gessner in his Historiae Animalium liber IIII (1558) and an advance towards true observation of nature, rectifying what Aristotle and other classical authors had written. He copied descriptions and illustrations of aquatic animals by Belon (1551), Rondelet (1554), Salviani (1554 -1558) and others. Most of the new species described and illustrated by him came from the Mediterranean sea and Italian inland waters. An example of a new illustration, drawn from nature, is the parrotfish on page 8. The woodcuts of Aldrovandi exercised a great influence on succeeding illustrators of zoological texts until Buffon published his Histoire Naturelle from 1749 to 1804. The work was not finished when Aldrovandi died in 1605. The volume on fishes and whales, drawn up in part from his notes by his Dutch successor at Bologna, Johannes Cornelius Uterverius from Delft, was not published until 1613. It was reprinted at Bologna in 1638 and 1644 (Pietsch, 1995). The present copy contains an inserted text leaf, dated 1661 and titled “Auctariolum de inviso antea Pisce Monstroso”, following page 480 and a further leaf, containing a full-page woodcut (without text), following page 492. The woodcut illustrates the monstrous fish described on the text leaf; the fish was discovered on 10th March 1661 by the Capo di Poscilico near Naples. It was 12 palms long; it looked a bit like a moray eel, and had a mouth like a trumpet. These two leaves are not recorded in the bibliographies and this makes the copy exceptional and rare.
Provenance: Armorial bookplate of Bibl. Castill. with the motto Delectant et Docet.
Wood, 1931; Nissen, Schöne Fischbücher, 1951, 112; Pietsch, 1995.

Price: € 7500

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